Author Archives: mordechai

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Putting Malta on your Bucket List – 7 Reasons

Category : Uncategorized

I recently completed a 5 night, 6 day trip to Malta – wait, where?

Exactly.

When I told friends and family I was traveling to Malta, half were confused as to where it is; the other half were confused – why would anyone go to Malta?

7 Reasons Why Malta Should Be on Your Bucket List

  1. Location: Where the heck is Malta?

Malta is located south of Sicily (and Italy) and north of North African countries like Tunisia and Libya. It is, however, located in the European Union and transact in Euros and is visa-free for Americans.

Many people visit Malta while passing through cruises of the Mediterranean or as day trips from the southern coast of Italy and Sicily.

Tiny little Malta.

Malta’s unique location has given it a rich ancient and modern history that leaves plenty to explore.

It also has no direct flights from the U.S., so it’s most likely that none of your friends have been there! (That’s a bonus!)

2. Malta gets 300 days of sun a year.

That’s right – so 65 days don’t get sun, but the rest do (why being in the Mediterranean is so important!)

For our 6 full days there, no clouds to be seen.

Perfect for sunbathing

The coolest months are January and February where temperatures average a cool 55 degrees, with the warmest months being May – September where the average hovers at around 75 degrees.

3. One island not enough? There’s three.

Malta consists of three main and popular islands: Malta, Comino, and Gozo.

Each has it’s own vibe and unique sites.

The Salt Pans of Gozo

Getting between the islands is fairly easy and with affordable and numerous options of ferry services which can you take you between the islands.

4. The capital city of Valletta is a UNESCO World Heritage City

While people still work and live in Valetta, the real charm is putting down your guide book and wandering the narrow and ancient streets. Pop into the local boutique shops and unique museums like the Postal Museum.

You could spend a few hours or a whole day there and you probably wouldn’t see it all.

Be sure to take the a ferry from Sliema or the Three Cities to see what it would be like attacking Valletta from the outside. The Malta Experience and tour of Fort St. Elmo are highly recommended.

5. The Blue Lagoon is One of the Most Instagrammed places in the world.

Who doesn’t care about Instagram?

In truth, there are some phenomenal photo opportunities to be had, and the water must be seen to be believed.

The Blue Lagoon, Comino, Malta.

The Blue Lagoon has updated facilities including lockers, a place to change and food service stands. It definitely gets warm, so bring the sunscreen!

Intrepid swimmers can swim across the lagoon – its cordoned off – and only reaches about 6.5 ft.

Bring your snorkeling gear!

6. Game of Thrones

While winter isn’t coming in Malta, the first season of Game of Thrones was filmed in Malta. You can do various tours centered around that season, or you can go to the sites yourself and see where Khal Drogo and Khaleesi get married; or where Ned and Cat Stark say their farewells.

Mdina Gate, Mdina. Where Cat and Ned Stark say goodbye.

Here’s a map showing the filming locations of Game of Thrones.

Image courtesy of Inquisitr.

7. There’s another Azure Window.

One of Malta’s most famous sites, a natural sea arch known as the Azure Window collapsed due to a storm this past March. While a visit to the plains is still worthwhile, there is a newer window, Wied Il-Mielah.

Wied Il-Mielah, Gozo.

The best part is that tour buses can’t get here, so it’s less popular  and overcrowded than the previous Azure Window.

There’s a path you can take down to get a better view, but it can be closed off to tourists depending on the time of year.

8. Beaches and Culture

Malta and its sister islands have a great combination of beaches and culture.

Malta’s unique location has given it some fascinating places for sightseeing, and it’s location on the Mediterranean has given it golden sand beaches.

Why is there a red, British telephone booth in Malta? Visit and find out…

As you can see from the numerous pictures, we’re more into the beaches than cultural aspects, but to each their own!

Bonus! 

While this may not be relevant to all, Malta is Zika free. For those who are avoiding travel to South America and the Caribbean, this is a huge plus.

So, are you planning your trip to Malta?

– The Miner

All pictures are copyright the author.


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AMEX Platinum Annual Fee Change and More – On MilesFlying Podcast

Category : Uncategorized

Take a listen to the podcast below from my friend Yehuda over at Miles Flying. There we discuss credit cards, favorite destinations and the newsworthy item related to the annual fee increase on the AMEX Platinum Card.

Curious why the fee is going up from $450 to $550? I can tell you, it’s not just because of Uber.

Like what you hear? Check out his page on Soundcloud or iTunes.

-The Miner


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Welcome, Million Mile Secrets Readers!

Category : Uncategorized

Welcome!

Thanks for visiting my page.

I hope you enjoyed reading my interview on Million Mile Secrets! I hope I can share some thoughtful advice and information with you.

Things have been a bit quite on the site as I’ve recently started a new full-time job, but I have some nice content to share with my lovely readers over the next few weeks, so please stay tuned!

If you’ve just arrived, feel free to check out some interesting articles on Kosher in Barcelona or the difficulty of finding award space on Hawaiian Airlines.

I’m sure you spend a lot of time reading other wonderful blogs dedicated to miles and points, so why should you spend some time reading this? Well, I don’t use credit card affiliate links and I try to explain the pros and cons to every card. Points and miles can get you to amazing destinations in amazing ways. But,  at the end of the day, I firmly believe that not every credit card is a good fit for everyone – you have to do what’s best for YOU!

Take some time to poke around the site and feel free to drop any questions in the comments section!

-The Miner


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Back to Basics: How To Transfer American Express Membership Rewards Points

Category : Uncategorized

See my Back to Basics: How To Transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards 

Content

  • Cards that Earn Membership Rewards
  • Transfer Partners
  • How to Link Programs & Transfer
  • Transfer Rates, Bonuses & Times
  • Most Valuable Transfer Partners

 Cards that Earn Membership Rewards

Membership Rewards (MR) are the points currency of American Express which transfer to airline and hotel partners.

The cards which earn MR:

  • EveryDay
  • EveryDay Preferred
  • Personal Green
  • Business Green
  • Premier Rewards Gold
  • Business Rewards Gold
  • Personal Platinum
  • Mercedes-Benz Platinum
  • Business Platinum

Transfer Partners

17 Airline Partners, 3 Hotel Partners, 1 Retail Partner

As you can see, once you ‘link’ a program, that specific partner tile moves from ‘Select a loyalty program to link’ to ‘Your loyalty programs’.

How to Link Programs & Transfer

Step 1: Create a frequent flyer account.

Though you can enroll in any of these programs on the Membership Rewards page, I find it easier – and less confusing – to do it on the airlines own frequent flyer page.

Step 2: Link Accounts

Once you’re logged into your American Express account, your Membership Rewards earning cards will show your points balance. Below that you’ll have an option to ‘Use Points’.

You’ll be presented with four options:

  1. Your Charges
  2. Travel
  3. Gift Cards
  4. Shopping

Select ‘Travel’, and you’ll then be presented with two more options for using your points for travel:

Both represent great options, but today we’ll focus on how to transfer your points to partners

I’ve noticed that those two options switch positions sometimes, but either way, you want to select ‘Transfer Points‘. That will bring you to the partner programs page (see above).

Once you’ve selected your partner to link, you’ll be asked for the following information:

  • Card holder to link
  • Which Membership Rewards earning card you’re using to verify:
    • The 4 digits on the front of that Membership Rewards earning card;
    • The 3 digits on the back of that Membership Rewards earning card.
  • Frequent flyer program number

‘Card Holder to Link’ – If you have an authorized user on your account, that user can be linked to your Membership Rewards account. This will allow you to transfer points to that authorized users frequent flyer account. In any event, the linked partner program must match the name on the card – even if it’s an authorized user.

‘Which Membership Rewards earning card…’ – You can use any Membership Reward earning AMEX card you have to verify with the front 4  digits and back 3 digits.

‘Frequent flyer…’ – If you’re linking an authorized users frequent flyer account, that information must match the first step (‘Card Holder to Link’). The name on the account and card must match.

Step 3: Transfer Points

After successfully linking programs, you’ll be prompted to ‘Transfer Points’, or you’ll be redirected about 10 seconds to the transfer page.

Transferring points is extremely straightforward. You’ll be prompted to enter the about of Membership Rewards you’d like to transfer and then AMEX will tell you how many points that equals in the partner program.

If you add a partner now, and wish to transfer later, follow the steps above and your program will be part of ‘Your Linked Programs’ section.

Transfer Rates, Bonuses & Times

Not all partner programs are 1000:1000 and not all are instant.

Transfer Rates

The following partners are not 1000:1000:

  • British Airways Avios, 250 MR = 200 Avios
  • Aeromexico Club Premier, 1000 MR = 1,600 Club Premier miles
  • El Al Matmid Miles, 1000 MR = 20 Matmid miles
  • Iberia Plus Avios, 250 MR = 200 Iberia Plus Avios
  • Jetblue TrueBlue, 250 MR = 200 TrueBlue points
  • Virgin America Elevate, 200 MR = 100 Elevate miles
  • Hilton Honors, 1000 MR = 1500 Honors points
  • Starwood Preferred Guest, 1000 MR = 333 SPG points

Transfer Bonuses

Occasionally AMEX has transfer bonuses of 25% – 50%. You can view a historical record of transfer bonuses here. Most commonly, British Airways Avios has a transfer bonus (as high as 50%) which brings the 250 Membership Rewards : 200 Avios to a more respectable parity.

Transfer times

Program Transfer Times
Aeromexico Club Premier Within 24 Hours
Air Canada Aeroplan Instant
Air France/KLM FlyingBlue Instant
Alitalia MilleMiglia Within 24 Hours
All Nippon Airways Mileage Club 1 – 2 Days
Britsh Airways Executive Club (Avios) Instant
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles 24 Hours
Delta Skymiles Instant
El Al Matmid Instant
Emirates Skywards Instant
Hawaiian Airlines Hawaiian Miles Instant
Iberia Plus Instant
Jetblue TrueBlue Instant
Singapore KrisFlyer Within 24 Hours
Virgin America Elevate Instant
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Instant
Choice Privileges Instant
Hilton HHonors Instant
Starwood Preferred Guest Instant

In some cases these may take longer, or less tiem, but a majority of them are instant or within 24 hours. Transfer times are important to keep in mind when dealing with rare award space.

Most Valuable Transfer Partners

The Membership Rewards program has a lot of solid partners, though not all are equally as good. Some have specifically great uses, while others are very solid across the board. Here’s a sample of some with quick transfer times, easy to redeem and good value when redeeming awards.

  • Air Canada Aeroplan – Air Canada’s Aeroplan is a member of the Star Alliance. Though they pass on fuel surcharges on certain airlines, they don’t on: Air China, Brussels, United, EgyptAir, Ethiopian, EVA Air, SAS Scandinavian Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Swiss and a few others. This makes Aeroplan miles valuable for getting to most destinations around the world, particularly Europe. For Europe they charge 55,000 one-way in business class – one of the cheapest, without fuel surcharges.
  • Air France / KLM FlyingBlue – one of the best uses of Air France/ KLM’s frequent flyer program FlyingBlue, is that Israel is considered part of Europe. That means one-way coach tickets are 25,000 or 62,500 miles in business class. That’s before the frequent promotions they have where award tickets can be 25 – 50% off.
  • All Nippon Airways Mileage Club – Though they do pass on fuel surcharges and require all tickets to be booked roundtrip, ANA, also a member of the Star Alliance only charges 65,000 miles roundtrip form the U.S. to Israel.
  • Delta Skymiles – Yes, Delta does have constant devaluations, but usually have solid award space in business (and coach) from the U.S. to Europe for 70,000 Skymiles each way. Add your Membership Rewards to the often lucrative Delta Skymiles credit cards (also from AMEX).

Depending on your destination and travel preferences, each program has something unique to offer.

Exicse Tax Offset Fee

American Express charges an excise offset tax when transferring Membership Rewards to domestic airline partners:

  • Delta Skymiles
  • Hawaiian Airlines Hawaiian Miles
  • Jetblue TrueBlue
  • Virgin America Elevate

The fee is $0.0006 per point. For example, if you transfer 50,000 Delta Skymiles from Membership Rewards, you’ll pay an additional $30. This can be offset with more Membership Rewards, or by charging the fee to your card of choice.

The max for this charge is $99.

-The Miner


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The Other Blogs I Read

Category : Uncategorized

Believe it or not, the travel hacker / credit card reward blogs industry is pretty crowded *gasp*!

If this isn’t your job, filtering through all the noise and finding meaningful and worthwhile content can be onerous. While my Feedly is stacked with every travel, aviation and rewards blog out there, here are a few to get you started (and I read them, too):

Travel is Free – Though he hasn’t posted in some time, Drew has some of the best guides to award programs (Cathay Pacific’s Asia Miles, stopovers on United), out there. He also has really useful maps by hotel chain that show hotel categories for using points.

Doctor of Credit – Doctor of Credit, or known as ‘DoC’, has such an extensive knowledge base about everything related to credit cards. Churning rules? Check. Checking account bonuses? Check. What does and does not count as direct deposit? Check. Literally. Everything.

TravelBloggerBuzz – If you want sarcasm and are jaded with the “hobby”, look no further.

MileCards – From what I understand, this is a corporately owned website, but that doesn’t prevent the authors from writing really solid content pieces on award space trends. They also write excellent and thorough beginner’s guides.

One Mile At a Time – I know I may get some heat for listing this, but if you’re looking for a first or business class review on a obscure carrier (Air Serbia, anyone?) then Lucky is your go to guy.

Cranky Flier – Cranky doesn’t write about credit cards or rewards, but he does write well written and topical pieces about the ongoing changes and challenges in the aviation industry. If you were every looking to learn more about how  airlines work, Cranky is a great place to start. Even for the uninitiated.

Saverocity Network – On here, Travel Is Free is part of that network, but the bloggers there tend to produce really different content. They also don’t push credit card links and tend to write about personal finance, cruise vacations and commentary on the points and miles industry.


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Kosher in Barcelona

Category : Uncategorized

This is an much delayed post as part of a trip we took during Thanksgiving 2016 to London and Barcelona. DISCLAIMER: I’m not a food critic/blogger or rabbi.

Traveling to cities that have smaller kosher-keeping populations can make it difficult to enjoy your time in the locale. After all, eating the local fare helps you immerse yourself more into the culture and environment of your visit.

Barcelona has one kosher restaurant in the touristy areas and thankfully, it’s quite good.

Restaurant Maccabi

Throughout our trip of 3 nights and 3 days, we went there for four meals: two dinners, one lunch, and one to-go meal for the flight home.

We found the service to be quick, efficient, and warm! This place was always packed (after all, it is the only kosher place). The food was always prepared fresh, and the prices were cheaper than I expected.

Restaurant Maccabi has a fun aesthetic and authentic feeling decor in the heart of the city.

As far as the food goes, skip the desserts (which are obviously non-dairy), and go for the signature and authentic dish such as the chicken paella.

It is open Sunday – Thursday from 12:00 PM – 11:30 PM, Friday 12:00 PM – 4:00 PM and closed on Saturday.

Getting There & Nearby Attractions

Restaurant Maccabi is situated right in the heart of the city on the most famous thoroughfare in Barcelona, La Ramblas.

From our hotel it was about a 20 minute walk, but the city’s easy to use public transportation is an option as well. The TMB (the main public transit operator in Barcelona) stop is ‘Liceu’ via the L3 line.

Nearby is the Gothic Quarter with several attractions like the Barcelona Cathedral and the Picasso Museum.

I’d also encourage you to walk down La Ramblas before/after dinner as there are markets lined up all along the pedestrian walkway.

Bottom line

Would I want to eat at the same restaurant for more than 3 -4 meals in a row? Not particularly, no – I don’t think anyone would. However, we were able to see all the main attractions in Barcelona in a few days which means you won’t be going back to Restaurant Maccabi too often.

The Miner

Featured image courtesy of the author.


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Starwood Cards Back Up to 35,000 Bonus Miles

Category : Uncategorized

The Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) credit cards from American Express are back up to 35,000 bonus miles after qualifying purchases. They’ve change the spending requirements, but the card benefits are staying the same.

As AMEX cards one once per life time, this would be the best time to get the card with an all time high offer.

Be sure to open these links in incognito (Finding Hidden Amex Sign-Up Offers)

Details

Personal Card

The Starwood Preferred Guest personal card requires:

  • $3,000 spent in the first three months for 25,000 bonus points
  • An additional $2,000 spent within the first six months of an additional 10,000 bonus points.

This would give you a total 40,000 SPG points after the spending.

This card includes the following benefits:

  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $0 annual fee the first year, then $95
  • Having the card gives gives you 5 nights and 2 qualifying stays towards status with Starwood
  • Unlimited Boingo wifi access

Business Card

The Starwood Preferred Guest Business card requires:

  • $5,000 spent in the first three months for 25,000 bonus points
  • An additional $3,000 spent within the first six months of an additional 10,000 bonus points.

This would give you a total of 43,000 SPG points after the spending.

It offers the same benefits as above, but also includes:

  • Club lounge access when staying at Sheraton properties

What Can I Do With SPG Points?

Now, these benefits are not amazing. They used to be worse, but SPG points are pretty difficult to come by, as you can only earn them from two cards and/or from staying at SPG properties.

SPG points also transfer to many airlines at a 1:1 ratio; but for every 20,000 points you transfer, you get a 5,000 bonus.

So, if you got both cards, you’d have 83,000 points. 80,000 would transfer as 100,000 points to a lot of great airlines! (There are 118 airline transfer partners. Notable ones include: Alaska, American, JAL, British Airways, Aeroplan, Miles and More [Lufthansa], and many more).

Or, you could use it for hotels. SPG has some really great properties and I find the solid ones to be fairly priced. Some properties are extraordinarily expensive and you’d get no more than 2 or 3 nights from your new stash of SPG points, but others are lower categories and can help you stretch your points. And stretch ’em you should.

Finally, you can transfer these points to Marriott (or vice-versa) at a 1:3 ratio. So if you were to get both cards (after spending), you’d have 249,000 Marriott points.

Bottom line

The offer expires April 5, 2017. If you’ve never had either of these cards, I’d recommend applying before the offer expiration date.

-The Miner

Feature image courtesy of Starwood.


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Hawaiian Airlines Pulls a Delta Skymiles: Over 550 Flights, One Saver Business Class Seat

Category : Uncategorized

For the New Year, my wife and I were supposed to be in Hawaii and Sydney. Unfortunately, we were unable to go and had to cancel and reschedule our trip.

I had originally booked us from Honolulu to Sydney on Hawaiian Airlines’ flight for 40,000 miles each way, per person, for a total of 80,000 miles. From the U.S. to Australia that’s not too bad. It was in coach; however, I’ve flown Hawaiian’s coach on their A330s and it’s not bad as the seat configuration is 2 x 4 x 2.

If you can snag the 2 seats on either side of the plane, you’re in for a much more comfortable ride.

Hawaiian Award Chart

Hawaiian has several level for booking award seats. The first in each class of service is the cheapest (the “saver” vs the “standard”). These “Super Saver” fares are the ones which allow you to book certain flights on partner airlines.

Coach

  1. Super Saver
  2. Coach Saver
  3. Coach Flex

First/Business

  1. First/Business Saver
  2. First/Business Flex

For reference, here’s the award chart.

Hawaiian Airlines Award Chart

Business Class Availability

Having figured out new dates when we could go (to just Hawaii), I started my search, resigned to the fact that I now had 80,000 excess Hawaiian Airlines miles in my account. I was definitely okay flying coach – after all, I had done it before and it was a more than fine experience. But then… a unicorn!

40,000 Hawaiian Miles for First/Business class seats in the new business class seats.

It was reported in May of 2016 that Hawaiian would be updating their business class product to fully flat seats across their fleet. There was slim chance it would be installed on their aircraft which flies form New York to Honolulu and back so quickly. Alas, that was updated and the first fully flat equipped A330 will fly on February 19. I depart February 20 – that means I’ll probably be the second or third person in that seat. How exciting!

Here’s how you know you’ll be flying the new Hawaiian Airlines business class:

2 x 2 x2 – 18 seats total

So, how do you find award prices for Hawaiian?

Unfortunately, they do not have an easy to use award calendar (like Delta), but they do have something a step up from British Airways.

I searched everyday from February 20 to December 14 – for 1 passenger – and found zero business saver award seats. By zero I don’t mean one – I mean zero!

That’s 297 days.

There were plenty of Business Flex fares which cost 80,000 one-way – no thank you, Hawaiian.

If you’re searching on Expert Flyer here are the award fare classes

  • Business Saver = D
  • Business Flex = P

Here’s what one specific day looks like on Expert Flyer

7 Business Flex / Upgrade seats

And not a single seat available at the Saver level.

And for the way back?

*Gasp* They do exist!

Sweet, sweet, Business Saver awards.

This was the only day – out of 297 – that I was able to find First/Business Saver award seats.

I guess I got lucky.

Bottom line

The bigger story here is that there is only one – out of almost 600 flights – First/Business Saver award seat. I’d say this smells like Delta Skymiles to me, but at least they release some Saver business class seats.

And specifically for Hawaii, United, Delta and American operate several routes with fully flat seating from cities like New York, Atlanta, and Washington D.C. Their award pricing is about the same, too. The availability may not be plentiful, but they do offer some award seats.

-The Miner

Featured image courtesy of Hawaiian Airlines


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Every (Other) Co-Branded Airline Credit Card

Category : Uncategorized

After the launch of the Cathay Pacific credit card from Synchrony, I thought I’d put together a list of all the other co-branded airline credit cards (of which there are many).

Here are the parameters for what’s included in the list:

  • Current and/or best offer
  • Some analysis on the worthiness of the card
  • Many of the benefits
  • Link (no commission)
  • Credit bureau or other credit related information

The major co-branded airline credit cards, which many will already be familiar with and receive a lot of attention in the points/miles blog space:

  • Alaska Airlines (Bank of America)
  • American Airlines (Citi and Barclaycard)
  • Delta Airlines (American Express)
  • Hawaiian Airlines (Barclaycard)
  • JetBlue (Barclaycard)
  • Lufthansa Miles and More (Barclaycard)
  • Southwest Airlines (Chase)
  • Spirit Airlines (Bank of America)
  • United Airlines (Chase)
  • Virgin Atlantic (Bank of America)

Aeromexico Visa Card – U.S Bank

  • 15,000 Club Premier Miles after first purchase
  • 2x Club Premier Miles per dollar spent on gas and groceries
  • 1x Club Premier Mile per dollar spent on all other purchases
  • One companion ticket (must be booked in M/B/Y fare class – the higher and more expensive fare classes) for travel between the U.S. and Mexico on Aeromexico only
  • Buy three full fare tickets, get a fourth free

Aeromexico has a very solid award chart – in theory. In practice they pass on fuel surcharges on all flights. Aeromexico is also a transfer partner of AMEX Membership Rewards.

Thee companion ticket and “buy three, get a fourth free”  sound like they could be useful benefits; however, the restrictions that they be booked into higher/full fare classes will be cost prohibitive more most.

Aeroplan Visa Credit Card – TD Bank

Aeroplan is the frequent flyer program of Air Canada.

  • 25,000 Aeroplan miles after spending $1,000 within three months of account opening
  • 2x Aeroplan miles per dollar on Air Canada purchase
  • 1x Aeroplan mile per dollar on all other purchases
  • Annual fee is waived the first year, then $95

For TD Bank, this is a pretty solid product. It’s nice that the annual fee is waived for the first year with a low spending requirement, too. Aeroplan miles have lots of great uses (particularly to Europe) and you can transfer from AMEX Membership rewards to top off your account. I’d only go for this if I was out of options, but it’s something to consider.

TD pulls from Experian.

Allegiant World MasterCard – Bank of America

  • Earn 15,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 within the first three months of card opening
  • 3x points per dollar spent on Allegiant purchase
  • 2x points per dollar spent on dining purchases
  • 1x point per dollar spent on all other purchases
  • Priority boarding and one free beverage every time you fly Allegiant (and show your card)
  • Annual fee $59, not waived

Allegiant points are worth 1 cent per point, so the sign-up of 15,000 points is worth $150 in travel.

There is one additional benefit:

Buy One, Get One Free (Air Ticket) when purchasing a vacation package

This may make the card worthwhile for some; however, there are several other Bank of America cards that I’d recommend before getting this (Asiana, Alaska Airlines).

ANA – First National Bank of Omaha

ANA, one of the two major carriers in Japan, is a member of the Star Alliance. ANA Mileage Club is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards. They have a really solid award chart (but require all travel to be booked as roundtrips). It’s unfortunate this card offer is so bad…

  • 5,000 miles after first purchase
  • 25% bonus miles on revenue tickets operated by ANA
  • 10% off in-flight purchases and 10% off duty-free shops
  • 1x mile per dollar spent on any other purchase
  • Annual fee of $70 not waived

Yeah, skip this…

First National Bank of Omaha pulls from different credit bureaus depending on where you live.

Asiana Visa Signature Credit Card – Bank of America

Asiana Airlines is a Star Alliance (the same alliance as United) member based out of South Korea.

  • 30,000 Asiana miles after spending $3,000 within three months of card opening
  • 3x miles per dollar spent on purchases with Asiana Airlines
  • 2x miles per dollar spent on gas and groceries purchases
  • 1x mile per dollar spent on all other purchases
  • Every year you receive two Asiana Airline lounge invitations (passes) and 10,000 bonus miles
  • Annual fee $99, not waived

The yearly 10,000 bonus miles is intriguing, but the assumption is, is that you need to keep the card open for a full year before they’re awarded.

In any event, the sign-up is solid (if not with a steep minimum spending requirement). Best of all? This card is issued by Bank of America, meaning it’s possible to get several of these per year (or at a time).

Avianca LifeMiles Vida / Vuela Visa Card – Banco Popular

There are two versions of this card, the ‘Vida’ being the inferior offer and ‘Vuela’ offering the higher sign-up bonus. I’ve covered this card in some detail here, but to recap, here are the benefits:

Vida

  • 20,000 point sign-up after first purchase
  • 2x miles per dollar on Avianca purchases, 1x miles per dollar on all others
  • Annual fee not waived, $59

Vuela

  • 40,000 point sign-up after first purchase
  • 3x miles on Avianca purchases, 2x miles per dollar on gas and groceries, and 1x miles per dollar on all others
  • Annual fee not waived, $149

Considering the no minimum spend requirements, the ‘Vuela’ flavor is not such a bad offering, but the annual fee of $149 is pretty steep. Be sure to use code AVSPWE on your application for an additional 20,000 LifeMiles.

Banco Popular pulls from Transunion.

Cathay Pacific – Synchrony Bank

See here.

JAL – First National Bank of Omaha

Japanese Airlines (JAL), also a member of the Oneworld alliance has a solid award chart. It doesn’t get much attention primarily because you can easily book award flights using partner miles (American AAdvantage miles on JAL). More importantly, JAL Mileage Bank miles only transfer form Starwood.

The above is the standard earning on the card.

The sign-up bonus is 5,000 miles, but you’d have to fly on JAL internationally in order to receive the bonus.

First National Bank of Omaha pulls from different credit bureaus depending on where you live.

Korean Skypass – U.S. Bank

Korean Skypass, a Skyteam member, has an excellent credit card from U.S. Bank. It doesn’t get much love because the standard sign-up bonus is small; sometimes U.S. Bank sends out targeted bonuses of 30,000 miles. If you get that offer, this card may make sense for you.

There are actually five (!) versions of this card. The best are the Visa Signature or Business versions. Here’s the comparison chart from U.S. Bank’s site:

 

With the exception of the SkyBlue version, they all have an annual fee. For 15,000 miles (Visa Signature), I’d skip, but for 30,000 it’s worth considering. Outside of the bonus, there’s nothing else exciting about this product.

Korean Skypass miles are also a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, providing an easy way to add to you Skypass balance.

LANPASS Visa Signature – U.S. Bank

LANPASS is the frequent flyer program of LATAM Airlines, based in Chile. They are a member of the Oneworld Alliance.

  • Up to* 20,000 miles after first credit card use
  • 1x LATAM Pass Mile per dollar spent
  • 2x LATAM Pass Miles per dollar spent on LATAM Airline ticket purchases
  • 4,000 miles after card renewal each year
  • 25% mileage bonus on paid flights, after spending $15,000 in a calendar year

While the mileage bonus for being a card member is nice (especially if you fly on revenue fairs often), it’s a bit odd that there is a spending requirement to activate this benefit.

The award chart is distance based and there are some decent offers to be had. I don’t think this card gets much attention, but it is a transfer partner of Starwood Preferred Guest and transfers at a 1:1.5 ratio. There are some solid short-haul redemptions to be had like 10,000 LANPASS kilometers for a flight from New York to Chicago on American Airlines. See here for a great write up on best uses.

*With U.S. Bank, if you’re not approved for the Visa Signature card, but are approved for a standard Visa, you’ll receive an inferior sign-up bonus of 15,000 miles.

Virgin America – Comenity

With the merger between Alaska Airlines and Virgin America, it’s anyones guess what will happen to this card. In the meantime, the only reason I’d suggest getting this card is to transfer your miles from the sign-up to Alaska for the conversion of 1 Virgin America Elevate mile to 1.3 Alaska Mileage Plan miles.

There are two versions of this card:

Virgin America Visa Signature Card

  • 10,000 Elevate miles after spending $1,000 in three months
  • $150 off a companion ticket every year
  • 3 additional Elevate miles per dollar spent on Virgin America flights (on top of the standard 5x per dollar)
  • 1x Virgin Elevate miles per dollar spent on all other purchases
  • Free checked bag for you and companion traveling on the same itinerary
  • Priority boarding
  • Annual fee $49, not waived

Virgin America Premium Visa Signature Card

  • 15,000 Elevate miles after spending $1,000 in three months
  • No change or cancellation fees – you just pay the difference (if any) in fare
  • $150 off a companion ticket every year
  • 3 additional Elevate miles per dollar spent on Virgin America flights (on top of the standard 5x per dollar)
  • 1x Virgin Elevate miles per dollar spent on all other purchases
  • Free checked bag for you and companion traveling on the same itinerary
  • Priority boarding
  • Annual fee $149, not waived

The Premium Visa is the superior offer, but both carry an annual fee (the second being pretty hefty). One of the more interesting benefits of the Premium Visa is the waiver of cancellation and change fees. If you fly Virgin America enough, that annual fee of $149 would be covered if you had to change your flight twice. Without this benefit, it would cost you $100 – $150 per change or cancellation on non-refundable tickets.

No word on when/what will happen to these cards, so if you were thinking about getting one, now would be the time.

It appears that Comenity favors pulling from Equifax or Transunion.

Bottom line

When I conceptualized this list, I thought it would a lot of garbage offers. I was pleasantly surprised to see that there are some solid non-major co-branded airline cards out there. Some of my top picks for consideration would be the Avianca Vuela Visa, Korean Skypass Visa, or the TD Aeroplan Visa.

Co-branded credit cards are big business for all parties involved. Though this is pure conjecture, I think a waiver on annual fees for the first year OR more lucrative sign-up bonuses would go a long way to securing new customers.

Did I leave any co-branded airline cards out? 

-The Miner

Featured image courtesy of Pixabay.


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New Cathay Pacific Card: No Thanks!

Category : Uncategorized

Yesterday Synchrony (who?) released their much anticipated co-branded credit card withCathay Pacific

Is it a worthwhile addition to your wallet?  

(Wait – Synchrony? Synchro-who? Synchrony is a large issuer of store cards; think Banana Republic and Brooks Brothers.)

The Offer 

  • Earn 25,000 Asia Miles after spending $2,500 within three months of card opening 
  • 2x points per dollar on Cathay Pacific purchase
  • 1.5x points per dollar on dining in the U.S.
  • 1.5x points per dollar on all foreign purchases 
  • 1x point per dollar on all other purchases in the U.S.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee is $95 and not waived

While the 25,000 point sign-up is paltry (compared to 50,000 – 70,000 point sign-ups), I’m not all that disappointed by that number. Remember: the Alaska Airlines cards from Bank of America used to be 25,000 (they’re now 30,000). However, there is an annual fee of $95 which isn’t waived that makes applying for this card, and keeping it, a bit harder to justify. 

The spending categories aren’t all that exciting. The 1.5x on all foreign purchases is an interesting twist, but cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve will earn 3x on dining and travel – even abroad.

F.A.Q.

Where else can I earn Cathay Pacific Asia Miles?

Asia miles is a transfer partner of Citi ThankYou Points, American Express Membership Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest. All transfer 1000 : 1000, except when transferring 20,000 or more from SPG, where you’ll receive a 20% (or 5,000 point) bonus.

When do these points expire? 

Asia Miles expire after three years! Even with this card. That’s a pretty huge disappointment.

How can I use Asia Miles?

The Asia Miles program isn’t the most straightforward, but you can read all about it here – Travel is Free has a excellent write-up on some cool uses.

Is this card churnable? 

Probably not. Though it will take some time to accurately determine this, the Terms & Conditions state:

25,000 BONUS MILES: For new accounts only … Only one 25,000 bonus miles offer per cardholder account…

Where does Synchrony pull from? 

Typically, Synchrony pulls from Transunion (and sometimes Equifax). For those who are inquiry sensitive this is a nice change.

Bottom line

While I’m a bit disappointed with the sign up (plus the $95 not waived annual fee), its great to see some new cards by smaller issuers injecting some new “blood” into the marketplace. On a positive note, it’s great that this will be a new issuer for many churners, plus the fact that Synchrony pulls from Transunion. That being said, the $95 annual fee and earning structure make this card far from worthwhile.

-The Miner